Cy Turner is the founder and head honcho at Cotic Bikes, UK purveyors of steel hardtail, cyclo-cross and commuting frames. Matt Skinner, editor of What Mountain Bike magazine, quizzed him on form vs function, dead end trends and conquering trail demons.
“I view our history as massively successful as we’re still in business making great bikes over eight years after we started. More by luck than judgment in some ways, more calculated in others, growing organically rather than quickly.”
On his hopes for the future
“In its most basic form, my hopes for the future are more of the same. I’m incredibly proud and pleased with how things have gone so far, and I feel I’m better than I’ve ever been at designing bike frames and running the business. To still be doing this in another eight to 10 years’ time, enjoying it, with products I’m proud of and believe in – that would be my hope.”
On the development of a new full-suspension bike
“We have a project fairly well advanced, and hope to have something to show everyone in the spring.”
On hydraulic disc brakes for cyclo-cross
“The X, our cyclo-cross/utility/commuter bike, has been disc equipped from its inception, because I really dislike rim brakes. I can understand the CX racing purists considering that cantis are fine for a one-hour thrash around a race course every week, and they’re probably right. However, CX type bikes are the kind of drop-bar bikes most people who want an all-round road bike really should be riding, given that they’re more relaxed, tougher and bigger tyred. Hydraulic disc brakes just complete that picture for maximum all-round use and durability.”
On his favourite Cotic bike
“I always have a Soul built up, so it’s probably that. However, I’ve spent a lot of this year on our new 29er hardtail prototype which I like an awful lot, and riding here in the Peak [District] on full-suspension has got my need for speed back too.”
On form and function
“You have to take due cognisance of both. One of the massive steps forward in bikes over the last few years is presentation and the level of graphic design, especially by bigger brands like Trek and Lapierre. At the end of the day, you can have the best functioning bike in the word but if it looks bad, hardly anyone will buy it. The product obviously has to perform, but bikes are all so good these days that a decent level of performance is almost a given, so it’s gotta look good too.
“The most important lesson we’ve learnt over the years is that a product has to look like one of your brands’ products. People find it a little odd when there isn’t a level of consistency in the look and presentation of your range of bikes, so we’re working to bring that more strongly to Cotic products. The Soul in particular, with it’s bright paintjob, clean lines and wraparound decal, has become an instantly recognisable and pretty much iconic look for us, and we’ve realised that this is valuable.”
The Cotic Soul is a modern classic, with distinctive looks and a springy ride
On tough economic conditions
“We’re seeing IBDs struggling but we ourselves are seeing really strong sales, and we’re doing well. I just concentrate on offering the best possible product and the best possible service, and hopefully success will follow. I’ve no idea whether that is a bubble that’s about to burst or not, but we’re quite well positioned as we have very low overheads and we don’t need to sell large volumes to stay in business, plus we owe very little.
“Our other advantage is that we’re largely a frame supplier, which some people seem to be switching on to in order to get that new-bike feel rather than buying an entire new bike. It also means we’re less affected by the vagaries of supplier issues and pricing, so we’re more in charge of our own destiny.”
On dead-end trends
“Seeing as I’ve been riding and reading about mountain bikes since about 1987, I’ve seen loads, but mainly in the early- to mid-90s really. That was a crazy time. Things like elevated stays on hardtails – although that works brilliantly for full-suspension bikes. Suspension stems instead of proper suspension is probably the biggest dead-end I can think of. Most things people have attempted since have had some level of merit and application, especially now the sport has fragmented into different niches.
“The only other thing that seems to be teetering on the brink of will it/won’t it is gearboxes for bikes. Anything up to now has massively underdelivered, but I saw an amazing piece of engineering from a company called Pinion at Eurobike this year which looks like it could finally deliver on the promise.”
On the most significant developments in mountain biking
“A bunch of things have coalesced. There’s no one silver bullet, but the constant evolution and improvement of suspension design and performance, frame design, tyre performance, component weight reduction and brake performance has meant that right now the bike you can build, especially with good value mid-range kit like [Shimano] Deore or SLX, is completely amazing. It’ll be light, tough, durable, reliable and so much fun. We literally never had it so good.”
On 2012’s big trends
“29er full-suspension bikes, particularly longer travel ones. There are some 140mm 29ers coming and given what I’ve experienced with my new hardtail design, I’m really interested to find out whether the compromises in packaging are outweighed by the performance of these bikes.”
On what keeps him in the saddle
“Only riding when I want to. I’m not one of these people who has an aching physical need to ride my bike, particularly now it’s my job. If I’m having a bad week, or I just don’t want to, I don’t. Forcing yourself will just make you hate your bike.”
On conquering trail demons
“Know your limits and know when it’s not happening ,and don’t force it. Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue. You need to know which is which and just carry on and enjoy the view if you’re having a bad day. You’ll just de-motivate and/or hurt yourself otherwise.”
An abbreviated version of this article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.
The Cotic BFe has proved its worth on some fairly testing terrain